Thursday 11 December 2014


My feet ache wonderfully.  I’ve worn the soles of my boots down to wafers and the only thing that gets me back to the hostel is a cool beer in a dark bar, the cigarette smoke dragged languorously through the air by lazy fan blades.

Of course, it’s usually the streetcars that actually get me back to mid-town – brightly painted wooden carriages clacking and swaying along their rails.  They run until deep into the night and they’ve been doing so since the Victorian era (with a few interruptions).

Wednesday 3 December 2014


My time in Clarksdale has come to an end but not before I got to experience my first Thanksgiving.

Taken to a friend’s family hunting cabin on the banks of a tranquil oxbow behind the mighty Mississippi, we feasted on deliciousness and drank happily in the crisp Autumn afternoon.  Deer nibbled placidly from the feeders scattered around, prancing gracefully out of sight when approached too closely.  The walls of the cabin were lined with the stuffed heads and polished skulls of those deer who did not prance away – one deer can feed the family for almost a year and they use it in everything.

Tuesday 25 November 2014


He sits outside the shoe store every day, this thickset man approaching his middle years.  To his back, the faded cursive letters proclaiming ‘shoes mended, soles repaired’ and on his face the last warmth of the sun before Winter turns the brightness cold and damp.  In the shop window is a mismatched pair of heels, poked haphazardly through a dusty old trellis – like you’d grow a rose bush on.  The shoes have not grown; the leather has faded pale blue but has been dusted so heavily with time that the upturned heels seem black with accumulated grit.  The man wears a tracksuit and is slow to smile.  It was his father’s shop before him and perhaps he was called back from happier climes to honour the wish of a dying patriarch.  Sometimes, he goes inside.  The little bell on the door chimes wearily as it closes behind him.  The sound of cobblers’ hammers industriously beating new life into worn and loved leather can be imagined, though no sound at all comes from the dim little room.

Tuesday 18 November 2014


It was the middle of a freezing cold night; rain was lashing down in great sheets.  The giant, un-illuminated golden arches of a McDonalds were being buffeted by the wind in the darkness, along with all the other giant signs on the highway.  All the little glowing road markers were blurred by the squelching windscreen wipers as my housemate drove me slowly but surely out to the hospital on the edge of town.  A couple of days earlier I’d strained my neck somehow and by now the entire right side of my head was an agonising wreck, and as I sat - unable to lie down - in my bed I began to wonder whether it wasn’t something worse (those of you who know me will find that amusing).  Hence this drive.

Monday 10 November 2014


My father has returned to Oz, his brief time here (this trip) neatly bookended by lunch at Abe’s Bar-Be-Que.  Out on the highway, faded signs scattered around the gravel parking lot warn those not eating at Abe’s that they will be towed.  Porcine statues mill about outside the entrance and an ancient non-illuminated neon proclaims the place has been here since 1924.  The delicious scent of slow-cooked pork hangs thick in the air and inside a buzzing crowd hungrily devour what has come to be called ‘the come-back sauce’.  And with good reason.  We sit at one of the little brown plastic booths, hemmed-in by more pork-based interior design than one can comprehend.  Our server is a large woman worked off her feet by the clamouring crowd, weaving her way between the closely-packed tables in a classic American server’s apron.  She’s been putting herself through night-school.  Her weary face breaks into a wonderful grin when she sees John – he’s been coming back here for years now – all the way from Downunder for this world famous barbeque.  And we have a feast.  And boy, that’s good.  But then my father and I part ways.

Monday 3 November 2014


We went to Memphis – a city!  As the car purred into town my blood quickened to be surrounded by tall buildings and strangers again, pedestrians and neon – so much neon!  Art Deco towers soaring into the blue sky;  enormous, gracious Belle Epoch hotels whispering of glories past.  Countless windows burning bright long-after the sun had set.  I was back in my natural habitat.

Tuesday 28 October 2014


My dad is visiting.  He has a car.  Suddenly the wide, flat dinner table of the Delta is ours to explore – I am temporarily an equal citizen of this Highway Kingdom.